For the cake:
- 1 white cake mix, baked in two 9-inch cake pans and cooled
For the pastry cream:
- 2 cups half and half
- 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
- Pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 4 pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the almond topping:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons water
For the vanilla buttercream frosting:
- 1 pound confectioners sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
To prepare the pastry cream:
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the half and half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the pinch of salt until simmering. Stir frequently being careful not to burn the bottom of the cream.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar to the eggs, and whisk until the mixture is creamy. Add cornstarch and whisk until combined.
- Add the egg mixture to the half and half mixture, combine with a rubber spatula, and return to a simmer.
- After 1 minute, remove from heat. Whisk butter and vanilla into the mixture.
- Once cool, cover the mixture with plastic wrap pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the mixture. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
To prepare the almond topping:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine almonds, sugar and water, tossing to coat.
- Spread the almonds on a large baking sheet, and toast 7-8 minutes without burning them.
To prepare the buttercream frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, combine the confectioners sugar, butter, milk, salt and vanilla.
- Start on low speed, and then increase to high speed, whipping until frosting is creamy and light, about 5 minutes.
- Add as much milk as needed to loosen or thicken the frosting until reaching the desired consistency for spreading.
To assemble the cake:
- Split each of the cakes in half to create four cake layers.
- Lay down a base layer of cake, and spread with a thin layer of pastry cream. Repeat for the remaining layers except for the top layer.
- Cover the cake entirely with buttercream frosting. Press almonds into the sides of the cake. Top the cake with remaining almonds.
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